In this paper, I will examine the principal merits and challenges of René Descartes’ concept of dualism and then defend my preferred alternative among the options Paul M. Churchland discusses. After briefly defining Cartesian Dualism, I will show that its principal merits are that it is consistent with common sense and that it is able to explain phenomena that appear mental in nature. Next, I will show that its principal challenges are its failure to adequately explain how the mind and the body can causally interact, and its failure to respond to the observation that brain damage impairs the mind. Finally, I will explain why Functionalism is the best alternative to Cartesian Dualism.
In essence, Cartesian Dualism attempts to solve the mind-body problem – that is, what is the relationship between the mind and the body? The answer, according to this theory, is that the mind and the body are two distinctly different substances that constitute each person. Here, “mind” can be described as a nonphysical thing that thinks and “body” as a living physical thing that does not think. The mind can also exist independently of the body, and both can causally affect one another.
One of Cartesian Dualism’s principal merits is its alignment with common sense. Specifically, it supports our basic intuition that there is more to us than our physical bodies. This intuition is apparent in how we talk. When we say “I feel sad” or “I want to go on vaction”, we are not referring to the states of